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Brian Doyle's "Joyas Voladoras"
Transcript of Brian Doyle's "Joyas Voladoras"
a study in induction
Brian Doyle's "Joyas Voladorus":
“Doyle helps us to see big things
through small ones” (Ballenger 397).
In other words, Doyle's essay proceeds by way of induction, the essayist's signature mode.
four simple or small sentences
about two small objects:
the hummingbird and the hummingbird's heart
His "Joyas" moves from particulars to ideas, from small things to big things.
What are these small things?
What are these big things?
How does he manage the passage from one to the other?
Note the final image of
relative giants—human beings—
pressing their “elephantine
[e]ars” to the “infinitesimal
chests” of the birds.
one complex or big sentence...
...about the history of the hummingbird
What are the small things?
What are the big things?
The first five sentences parallel the inductive movement of the entire essay. With the simultaneity of subtlety and decision that defines the informal essay, these first five sentences indicate that, somehow, “Joyas Voladoras” is not about hummingbirds so much as homo sapiens. In its focus on the hummingbird's heart, the first paragraph further indicates that, somehow, this essay is about the human being's heart—the physical organ, perhaps, or the metaphorical organ as seat of emotion.
"We all churn inside."
“You can brick up your heart as stout
and tight and hard and cold and
impregnable as you possibly can and
down it comes in an instant, felled by
a woman's second glance, a child's
apple breath...” (para. 6).
The essay meditates on emotional vulnerability
as a convergence of fragility and power:
we feel; we fly.
to fly. You burn
out. You fry the
melt the engine”
"[A]ll hearts finally are bruised and scarred...fragile and rickety...” (para. 6).
So do we stop feeling?
Do we "brick up" our hearts (para.6)?
Do we abandon ourselves to a state
of alienation "close to death" (para. 2), like hummingbirds
so cold or so hungry that their hearts
slow down to “barely beating"?
In that state, "if they are not soon warmed, if they do not
soon find that which is sweet...they cease to be.”
Through the detail and imagery that I've quoted above and that I quote here, Doyle builds from the small thing—the hummingbird's heart—to the big thing—his point, his claim. What stops our hearts, Doyle suggests, is what sends us flying. It's what launches us into heights of feeling or imagination, intimacy, memory. We reside “alone in the house of the heart,” but it's from within that heart that we open. We open our windows, and, from an irreparable solitude, we witness and are witnessed, traveling like blue whales in pairs, “[our] penetrating moaning cries, [our] piercing yearning tongue” attempting to cross the uncrossable—separation. That attempt—that essai—is love.